Who Gets Custody of Adopted Children in a Divorce?

When children are involved in a divorce case, things get more complicated. This is true whether or not the children are adopted. The parents and the courts will need to examine what is in the best interests of the children in terms of custody, visitation and child support after the divorce. If your children are adopted by one or both parents, find out how this may impact your divorce case in Orange County, California, according to our expert child custody attorney in Orange County. 

Does Custody Automatically Go to One Party?

No. As is the case in a typical divorce, both parents have a right to seek custody in a case involving adopted children. Just as adopting a child is an attempt to bring some measure of security, stability and peace into the child’s life, the courts in a divorce case will attempt to continue this peace by giving the child contact with both parents. The courts generally hold that this is what is best for children after a divorce or legal separation – unless there is a reason to deny custody to one parent, such as:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child neglect or abuse
  • Child endangerment
  • Abandonment
  • Child abduction
  • Disobeying court orders
  • A substance abuse disorder
  • Incarceration

Unless custody or visitation with one parent would endanger the child in some way, the courts will generally create a shared custody agreement. This is the case whether or not the child has been adopted. The California courts view adopted parents as the legal parents of the child. This means that they will be treated like any other parent in a California divorce case. Custody will not go to the child’s biological parent in a divorce after the child has been adopted, as the biological parent has given up all parental rights.



What Types of Different Custody Options Are Available for Adopted Children in California?

Regardless of the type of adoption involved in your divorce case – whether you and your spouse both adopted a child that was not biologically yours or a stepparent adopted a child that was the other spouse’s – the courts in California consider the adoptive parent the legal parent. This means that the case will proceed as any other child custody case. 

First, the parents will have the opportunity to create their own parenting plan. If this doesn’t work, the courts will choose the custody option that is in the best interest of the adopted child. There are a variety of custody possibilities:

  • Physical vs. legal custody. Physical custody means having the child under your roof. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, such as medical care and religion. The courts can award both types of custody to one parent or both parents, or divide types of custody between two parents.
  • Shared (joint) custody. Shared custody means that the adopted child will spend part of his or her time with one parent and part with the other parent. The exact time percentages will depend on the case. It may not be a 50/50 split if this is not practical or in the child’s best interest. 
  • Sole custody. Sole custody means that 100 percent of child custody goes to one legal parent. In this case – which is relatively uncommon in the California courts – the noncustodial parent may or may not have visitation rights.

Once a custody settlement or court-ordered custody agreement has been finalized, both parties must obey the order. It is possible, however, to request a child custody modification with a valid reason. If there is a substantial change in the child’s life, such as one adopted parent getting arrested, the other parent can seek a modification of the original custody order from the courts.

Contact Us to Learn More

If your divorce case in Orange County involves adopted children, contact the attorneys at Boyd Law for more information and legal counsel. Your case may have complications, such as a contested divorce where you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on child custody and must go to court. Our lawyers can help you work through your case to protect your rights and the best interests of your adopted children. Contact us today at (949) 753-1028 to learn more.

Our divorce attorneys also serve multiple locations in Orange County, such as: